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As with most of the other people of South Africa the Venda (VhaVenda) came from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. They first settled down in the Soutpansberg mountains. They built their first capital, D'zata, the ruins of which can still be seen today. Venda culture has an interesting mix of other cultures - it appears to have incorporated a variety of East African, Central African, Nguni, and Sotho characteristics. For example, the Venda forbid the consumption of pork, a prohibition that is common along the East African coast. They also practice male circumcision, which is common among many Sotho, but not among most Nguni people.
Trade, warfare and intermarriage with Tsonga, Lobedu, Zulu, Swazi and other people have also left their imprints on the Venda culture.The Venda were a protective people, many of whom still practiced polygamy and worshipped their families' ancestors.
The Venda culture is built on a vibrand mythical belief system,which is reflected in their artistic style. Water is an important theme to the Venda and there are many sacred sites within their region where the Venda conjure up their ancestral spirits. They believe zwidutwane, (water spirits), live at the bottom of waterfalls. These beings are only half-visible; they only have one eye, one leg, and one arm. One half can be seen in this world and the other half in the spirit world. The Venda would take offerings of food to them because the zwidutwane cannot grow things underwater
One of the is Lake Fundudzi. Suspicion surrounds the lake, which is fed by the Mutale River yet does not appear to have an outlet. It is also said that you can sometimes hear the Tshikona song although no one appears to be there. The Venda people have a very special relationship with Crocodiles. The area where they live is filled with these dangerous reptiles. The Venda believe that the brain of the Crocodile is very poisonous, therefore they are given right of way by the Venda who do not even hunt them for food.
There are some interesting aspects of the Vhavenda culture which really set it apart from the other ethnic groups. The King , for one, in Venda traditions, is seen as a living ancestor and of which guarantees him devotion and respect. The regards for women is another interesting on. Though ruled by kings, women are encouraged to occupy senior positions in society. One other is that they keep cattle and associate having a lot oof livestock to wealth, power and prominence.
But perhaps what truly distinguishes the Vhavenda from other groups is the role of art in their community. Artists are beleived to be called by the spirit world through unusual dream and visions to fulfill their destinies, giving their work supernatural energy.
Here are some of the basic words of the Tshivenda language;
Good morning - Ndi matsheloni
Afternoon - Ndi masiari
I love you - Ndi a ni funa